What Is Slow Fashion?

What is slow fashion? JORDYN LEAH SWIM talks about the critical importance for creating ethical and sustainable fashion for a healthy and happy future for humans and environment.

JORDYN LEAH SWIM Supports Slow Fashion

As the fashion industry grew (and grew, and grew, and grew), it began to develop an appetite for exploitation and destruction.  

Eventually, a counter-movement was born, which is now growing from the ugly duckling into a beautiful swan.

But first, we need to back up a bit and talk about McDonald’s in Piazza di Spagna, Rome in 1986.


When in Rome

On March 20,1986, McDonald’s opened its first establishment in Piazza di Spagna, a mere block from the Spanish Steps.  This sparked a divided response from citizens and business owners of the community, including the star designer, Valentino.

Here is an excerpt from a New York Times article written on the matter:

“According to Valentino, who this week began legal action aimed at closing the restaurant, which backs on to his Rome headquarters, the McDonald's created a ''significant and constant noise and an unbearable smell of fried food fouling the air.'' He has asked Italian magistrates to order it closed immediately on the ground that it is a nuisance.”

Valentino was only one of many who was vocal in his staunch opposition to what was disparagingly labeled the ''degradation of Rome'' and the ''Americanization'' of Italian culture.

Thousands of people rallied in protest against the encroachment of cheap, fast, standardized, Americanized industrialization.

Among them was Carlo Petrini, an Italian journalist. “I was alarmed by the culturally homogenizing nature of fast food,” Petrini told TIME years later.

McDonald’s remained, despite the ongoing controversy and derision from many in the community.  But from that was born the “slow food” movement, and eventually, the “slow movement” as a subculture faction seeking to remedy the host of ills the breakneck speed of modern life exacts upon earth and its inhabitants.  

McDonald’s setting up shop down the street from the Spanish Steps spawned the birth of Slow Food association, created by that same Italian journalist, Carlo Petrini, where the aim was a dedicated to the protection of traditional foods and the advocacy for agricultural biodiversity.  This beginning has since grown into a global Slow Food movement and, furthermore, inspired the application of its inherent ethos into disparate other industries and sectors - chief among which was, and is, the fast fashion industry.


The Slow Movement

In 2004, the book In Praise of Slow by Carl Honoré was released, exploring how the philosophy of Slow could be applied to the whole of human endeavours and the term “slow movement” came to be a widely recognized encapsulation of the inherent principles.

"It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail's pace. It's about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting." — Honoré.

These inherent facets of the Slow philosophy translate to food, to fashion, and to the living of life itself.

What is slow fashion?

Once upon a time, fashion was very, very slow.  ‘Seasons’ in fashion were decades long, evolving ever so slowly.  The wealthy had opulent, extravagant garments hand-tailored for them by the most skilled garment makers.  

With the transition into an industrialized time period in human history with its evermore connected and global market nature, fashion also became increasingly more of a byproduct of industrialized, mass design, production, and consumption.  The byproduct of consumption is waste buildup.  But that’s not bright, shiny, new, and fun so for a long, long time, that dirty fact just went willfully ignored and the speed of production ramped up, the advertising became ever more glitzy, driving a constantly rocketing appetite for more, cheaper, faster, newer.  Until now there are brands that have up to 52 micro-seasons in one year.  

Yes.  A new ‘season’ released on a mass scale every single week of the year.  

Read our previous blog on how much water is consumed in making only one pair of jeans here.  This gives a starting perspective on the mass scale of just this one resource used in just one small part of this massive monster of an industry.  

Clearly, this is objectively not sustainable.  Some understood this sooner than others and for some time these change advocates were seen as The Ugly Duckling in a self-obsessed, image-driven industry where increasing the bottom line by any means necessary was the only thing that mattered, and the way to do that was to make more, cheaper.  

In 2007, the term ‘slow fashion’ was coined by Kate Fletcher, then in the Centre of Sustainable Fashion department, a Research Centre of the University of the Arts London based at London College of Fashion.  

Since then, the slow fashion movement has been growing from The Ugly Duckling into The Swan.  There is a very, very long way to go until mass-scale changes are the norm for the industry as a whole - from textile cropping all the way through to end-of-life realities for garments and accessories produced, but the commitment by some designers and high-fashion labels to begin adopting practices that honour the ethos of the slow fashion philosophy has served to give a huge boost to the inherent value and credibility of the movement.  


Slow Fashion Philosophy

  • Slow fashion isn’t the sole responsibility of the producer, nor is it the sole responsibility of the consumer.  
  • Slow fashion, at heart, is an agreement that fashion is a good, beautiful, needed, worthwhile, wanted creative work that carries an equal balance of both accountability and expressiveness between the producer and the consumer.
  • Slow fashion honours the resources used in its creative production endeavour.  It does not waste, it does not abuse, it does not trample. 
  • Slow fashion honours the dignity of human lives along the way throughout the supply chain, from crop growing, to textile manufacturing, to garment production factories, to end-of-life disposal.
  • Slow fashion holds to the life-affirming principles of ‘people before profit; purpose beyond profit’ and sources textiles and supplies accordingly; and manufactures, advertises, and sells accordingly. 
  • Slow fashion believes in making exceptional things, with exceptional quality; honouring the age old adage of quality over quantity.

Slow Fashion Practices

Slow fashion creates a balance of ethical sustainability between conscientious producer and educated, caring consumer - a practice of mutual respect for the needs of a label to sell their wares to an extent that creates a positive profit margin, and the understanding that it must be done in a way that generates positive impacts in its wake when the consumer supports the producer’s work with their dollars spent.  

The consumer who pledges allegiance to the slow fashion philosophy will actively support it through the choices they make for their wardrobes.  Certainly, this conscientious consumer will forego participation in the fast fashion purchasing frenzy.  Beyond that, what this looks like in practice for fashion consumers supporting the slow fashion movement can vary based on location, culture, socio-economic factors, to name a few parameters.  


Here are some ways that slow fashion can be supported as a consumer:

  • Buy from smaller businesses that carry locally made, fair trade, high-quality items
  • Don’t be afraid to buy some items second-hand
  • If a piece is no longer wanted and is in great condition, donate it for someone else to enjoy. I personally love donating to our local women's shelters
  • Choose the majority of your wardrobe in more timeless, classic pieces instead of fad trend pieces that you won’t be comfortable wearing after the current, short-lived fashion season is over

Here are some ways that brands espousing slow fashion ethos practice their commitment: 

  • Designing highly refined, thoughtful collections that refuse to participate in the short-lived churn-and-burn fads of micro-seasons
  • Intentionally creating fewer items and, instead, focusing on creating the highest quality in each item that they do produce
  • Choosing fabrics and materials used in product creation with educated mindfulness of sustainability and impact 
  • Producing products through ethical and non-exploitive means

JORDYN LEAH SWIM is a born-in-Canada swimwear label designed for fashion and earth using an innovative new fabric that rapidly and completely decomposes when it’s put into the landfill environment with its particular properties of gasses and soil nutrient composition.  Prior to that, it looks stunning, feels opulent, and comes with the dedicated support for individual beauty of every beautiful body and soul.

Find yours here.

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